Aman & Meeks Crafts a Stunning Retreat for Renowned Collector Candia Fisher
Designers Jim Aman and John Meeks create a light-filled haven of extraordinary art as they update a modernist icon in Martha's Vineyard
As fresh and easygoing as a beach house can be, Candia Fisher’s modernist retreat on Martha’s Vineyard abounds with museum-quality treasures. On display throughout the oceanfront residence is an extraordinary trove of artworks by such masters as Georgia O’Keeffe, Josef Albers, Robert Rauschenberg, Agnes Martin, Ed Ruscha, Gerhard Richter, Alex Katz, and Andy Warhol. Some of these pieces were acquired by Fisher, others by her mother, Emily Fisher Landau, the legendary collector who died earlier this year at the age of 102.
Complementing the art is an array of distinguished furnishings, including designs by Diego Giacometti, Jean Prouvé, Claude Lalanne, Gio Ponti, and Warren McArthur. “Eighty percent of the furniture is art,” says Jim Aman, who with his partner, John Meeks, of the New York firm Aman & Meeks, recently oversaw the restoration and decoration of the notable house, a plank-wood, single-story structure designed by architect Edward Larrabee Barnes in the early 1970s.
Even with the important collections, the house projects a decidedly relaxed vibe, offering stunning views of the sea from nearly every room. “There’s a low-key glamour, but everything is very simple and casual,” Meeks says.
Yet when Fisher purchased the six-acre property a few years ago, she wasn’t sure the house could be salvaged. “It was in such terrible condition, it was fifty-fifty whether to tear it down or try to save it,” she recalls.
A walk-through with another eminent architect, her friend Norman Foster, convinced her to preserve the building. “His face lit up,” remembers Fisher. “I wouldn’t change a thing,” he told her.
“Well, we’re going to change a few things,” she responded.
Those alterations, however, were about thoughtfully updating rather than reinventing or adding on. “A house like this deserves a second chance,” she says. “As I look around today, it’s exactly as it was. We even kept the hardware. It’s still distinctly Barnes.”
Aman and Meeks did add a new fireplace, built from stones collected on Fisher’s beach, and the duo stripped and either bleached or painted white the dark woodwork that clad much of the interior—except for the study, where they preserved a duskier feel. “It’s now lighter, brighter, and happier,” says Meeks.
Another goal was for the home to be low-maintenance. “For the drapery, we used one fabric—kind of a scuba material, which doesn’t hold moisture,” explains Aman. “Then we upholstered everything, even the Prouvé daybed, in high-performance white woven fabrics.”
When it came to installing the art—which includes a diverse range of objects, from tribal art to Scandinavian ceramics—the designers’ brief was to arrange everything in a way that “looks great and cohesive,” says Aman, who with his partner also designed several other residences for Fisher in New York City, Palm Beach, and Greenwich, Connecticut.
Growing up in New York, Fisher learned about collecting from the best. “My mother inspired me to appreciate art and to look at art through her eyes, which were so special,” she says. “I have really tried to emulate my mother because I just can’t do it any better than she did.”
In the 1960s, when Emily was raising Fisher and her two siblings on the Upper East Side, she started to collect informally (using as seed money a large insurance settlement she received after a heist of her spectacular jewelry collection). According to family lore, Emily’s first major acquisition was an Alexander Calder mobile from 1948. After buying the four-by-three-foot work directly from its owner, who lived on Central Park West, she carried it home on a crosstown bus.
“My mother inspired me to appreciate art and to look at art through her eyes, which were so special”Candia Fisher
Eventually, Emily transformed a 25,000-square-foot factory in Long Island City into the Fisher Landau Center for Art to house her collection, showcasing works by Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Mark Rothko, Jean Dubuffet, and Fernand Léger as well as contemporary artists, until it closed in 2017. Fisher is putting some of these gems up for auction at Sotheby’s on November 8. Estimated to be worth as much as $500 million, the trove includes a 1932 Picasso that is considered to be among the finest still in private hands.
A major event it will doubtless be. But one item that certainly isn’t headed to the block is the Calder mobile, which dangles from the dining room ceiling in Martha’s Vineyard. “It brings a sense of lightness as it moves slowly, ever changing in the air,” says Fisher. “It’s very dear to me.”
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2023 Collectors Issue under the headline “Radiant Refuge.” Subscribe to the magazine.